6-11 center on UT radar

InsideTennessee keeps you up to date on Tennessee Volunteer basketball recruiting. Check out this story on an intriguing post prospect from IT's editor-in-chief:

If sophomore post Jarnell Stokes declares for the NBA draft — ready or not — Tennessee suddenly finds itself needing a big man to groom as his eventual replacement.

If so, that big man just might be Ikenna Okwarabizie, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound junior at St. Louis Christian Academy.

Like current Vol Yemi Makanjuola, Okwarabizie is a transplanted Nigerian whose adjustment to American basketball is in its early stages. He entered the U.S. in August with a lot of rough edges but several major colleges see intriguing potential in him.

"Tennessee has come on board lately," St. Louis Christian coach Casey Autenreith told InsideTennessee. "Tennessee sent (assistant coach) Kent Williams to watch a practice in December, then sent him back (in late February). Ike also is getting interest from LSU, Oklahoma, Indiana State and Southern Miss."

Although Okwarabizie is a bit raw, he reportedly is improving at a rapid pace.

"Kent Williams was up to watch him practice a second time, and I think he was very impressed with him," Autenreith said. "I think he's seen a major improvement in him from when he was here in December and now. I expect Tennessee's interest to pick up a lot."

After noting that Okwarabizie has "a unique skill set" and a 7-foot, 3-inch wingspan, the coach described him as "a very coordinated, athletic kid. He runs the floor very well. He's a good leaper who can jump off either foot. He has soft hands around the basket and a nice mid-range game. He has the tools to play at a high level. He's 6-11 and 240 pounds, so he's well built. He's just starting on weights this spring, so his strength will increase."

Okwarabizie's greatest attribute may be his mobility. He reportedly moves exceptionally well for his size.

"He can step out and guard a guard," Autenreith said. "He's very coordinated and has very quick feet. We use him a lot in pick-and-roll situations. He's not one of those big kids that just stands near the basket. We use him on forwards to come out and contest shots in the corner.

"We play a fast pace, and he gets out and runs the floor well. He's a lot more coordinated than most kids his size. He can guard big guys, can guard small guys. He has good timing on his blocks and definitely has some unique qualities for a 6-11 player."

Like most young big men, however, Okwarabizie needs a lot of fine-tuning on offense.

"His offensive game is coming around," Autenreith said. "He's been blocking a lot of shots and rebounding. He's started finishing in traffic and he's getting more aggressive.

"He has a good array of post moves. We're trying to get him to understand when to use which move."

Although he is no threat to launch 3-pointers like former Tennessee post Wayne Chism, Okwarabizie doesn't have to be point-blank in order to score.

"He has good range," Autenreith said. "We use him some at the high post. He's a good free-throw shooter. He's not going to step out and shoot 3s but he's got a nice little step-back jumper. I guess you'd say he's a finesse player because he's not a power kid. He's got all the moves. We're just trying to get him more aggressive."

Because he has been playing American basketball for just five months, Okwarabizie's upside is enormous. There's no telling how good he could become with time and a patient college coach.

"He actually had a decent skill set when he got here but not much game experience," Autenreith said. "We've seen a lot of improvement in game experience. He's had to adjust to the physicality of the game here. We play a pretty elite schedule, so we're playing a lot of the top teams in the country. It took him awhile to adjust to that."


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